A new investigative piece from ESPN senior writers Don Van Natta, Jr. and Seth Wickersham makes the case that there is a direct link between the leaking of former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s emails in October 2021 and the impending sale of the Washington Commanders by longtime owner and malcontent Daniel Snyder.
Based on interviews with league sources and new reporting, Natta, Jr. and Wickersham make a fairly compelling case that the leak of the emails, possibly by the NFL, set off a chain of events that led to Gruden being fired and a congressional committee launching an investigation into the Commanders’ workplace and alleged sexual misconduct that turned into a federal criminal investigation about potential financial misconduct by Snyder and the team. All of that smoke made Snyder’s seat at the table hot enough that his fellow owners, including Jim Irsay, eventually forced Snyder to sell the franchise he’s owned for the past 24 years.
Prior to the impending sale, which will see a group led by Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils part-owner Josh Harris buy the Commanders for a record $6.05 billion, Snyder tried to convince the league not to force him out with a tool that became known as the “Blackmail PowerPoint,” per ESPN.
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Allegedly presented by Snyder’s lawyers at NFL headquarters in Manhattan to a group of select league execs in June of 2021, the PowerPoint showed a series of slides depicting “a series of screenshots of potentially embarrassing emails and texts from several top league executives” that left the room “stunned.”
“The rationale, according to a source with firsthand knowledge, was to argue the hypocrisy of league officials judging Snyder. The tactics were so ruthless that some attorneys felt uncomfortable,” per ESPN. “Although none of the content was sexist, anti-gay or graphic, the signal was clear: If Goodell didn’t do what Snyder wanted in terms of handling the Wilkinson report and punishment, these emails and texts would be leaked.”
Although the tactics made league executives and others involved in the case angry, they were effective in the short term as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell began to reconsider the punishment he was going to hand down to Snyder. The discipline Snyder ultimately received was announced just ahead of the Fourth of July and amounted to a $10 million fine and mandate that the controversial owner would step away from day-to-day operations “for at least the next several months.” The word “suspension” was never used.
Though the Blackmail PowerPoint wasn’t enough to save Snyder in the end, his reported decision to use it totally fits in with the way he has conducted himself during his tenure as the owner of Washington’s football team.
Snyder, who used to say he would only change the racist former name of his football team “over his dead body,” is finally on his way out of the NFL and good riddance. Hopefully, the Blackmail PowerPoint is the last thing we have to remember him by and it’s extremely fortunate it wasn’t enough to save him.